The final section of the UCAT, the Situational Judgement Test, assesses how you respond to real world scenarios. It’s different from the other subtests in the exam, which are grouped together as the ‘cognitive subtests’. These differences primarily lie in how it is scored and how your score is used by medical schools in their selection process; both of which you can find more information about in the UCAT Situational Judgement Test Scores section below.
This guide will provide you with information about the UCAT Situational Judgement Test, the structure and types of questions you will be asked, as well as tips to do well and where you access free UCAT practice questions.
Within the UCAT Situational Judgement Test, you’ll be given scenarios and possible actions or considerations linked to these, which you’ll need to judge in terms of their importance or appropriateness.
The UCAT Situational Judgement Test assesses your ability to understand situations, identify key factors and respond appropriately. Although some of the scenarios will be clinical based, the UCAT website states that you do not need ‘medical or procedural knowledge’; rather, it is your values and behaviours that will be assessed, through your responses to difficult situations and ethical scenarios.
The UCAT website identifies the following key values and behaviours that will be assessed as part of the Situational Judgement Test:
It’s important that doctors respond appropriately in situations, to maintain professionalism and uphold trust in the profession; therefore, the values and behaviours assessed in the UCAT Situational Judgement Test are important for prospective doctors.
The format of the UCAT Situational Judgement Test is as follows:
You’ll have 26 minutes (plus a 1 minute instruction section) to read 22 scenarios and answer the 69 associated questions.
Not unusual with the UCAT, time is a factor in the Situational Judgement Test; however, the scenarios will be relevantly short to read – in comparison to the passages in the Verbal Reasoning section, for example – so you should find with adequate preparation and the use of practice tests, you can get through all of the questions in the given time.
Within the UCAT Situational Judgement Test there are the following two question types:
As mentioned previously, the scoring for the Situational Judgement Test differs from the other UCAT subtest, and isn’t included in your total score, with the ‘cognitive subtests. Instead, raw scores are expressed as four bands, with band 1 being the highest and band 4 the lowest score.
Within the UCAT Situational Judgement Test, you’ll score partial marks for ‘almost right’ answers and full marks, of course, for the correct answer; giving you the opportunity to gain some marks even if you don’t get the correct answer. For example, for ‘how important’ questions, if you choose ‘very important’ for an answer where the correct choice was ‘important’, you would be awarded partial marks.
Just as the Situational Judgement Test differs from the other UCAT subtest in how it’s scored, the score statistics provided by UCAT are also different, and shown as the percentage of candidates in each band.
The UCAT website provides the following percentages for the Situational Judgement Test from 2016 – 2020:
*Note, scores from 2020 are for tests taken up to 25 October 2020.
For more information about how the UCAT is scored, including the UCAT interpretation of performance per band, visit the UCAT Practice Test blog.
The importance of the UCAT Situational Judgement Test in terms of your medical school application varies depending on your chosen university (see section below). However, being familiar with situational judgement style tests will benefit you throughout your training and future career, as they are used widely within medical selection, and therefore you will experience them at different stages of your professional life. The UCAT website highlights their use in the selection of ‘Foundation Doctors, GP and other specialities’, for example, demonstrating that Situational Judgement is not simply a test you will do once then forget about.
Often medical schools don’t list specific requirements, scores or bands, but will take your UCAT score and Situational Judgement band into consideration at some stage of the selection process.
For medical schools which give specific requirements for the Situational Judgement Test score, the most common criteria is that applicants must achieve band 1 – 3 and those who score in band 4 will not be considered for entry. The medical schools which specifically outline this requirement are:
How your score is used differs depending on your chosen medical school/s, so it’s worth checking their website to become familiar with any specific UCAT Situational Judgement Test requirements.
As with all sections of the UCAT, you’ll be aware of your Situational Judgement Test score before you apply; therefore, if you didn’t perform as well as you’d hoped, you can always apply to medical schools which put less emphasis on this section of the UCAT. However, doing well will give you more options and mean you’re not restricted in the medical schools that you can apply for, which is especially important if the medical school/s of your choice have minimum requirements for the Situational Judgement test.
Generally, a score of band 1 or 2 is a ‘good’ score within the UCAT Situational Judgement Test. Although medical schools which specify entry requirements for the Situational Judgement Test include band 3 as an acceptable band, it’s possible that applicants in higher scoring bands will be prioritised over those in band 3, as stated by Manchester School of Medicine.
In addition, in previous UCATs over half of candidates have consistently scored in band 1 or 2, and in some years this has been as high as 70% of candidates; therefore, if you’re aiming for a ‘good’ Situational Judgement score it’s likely that you’ll want to score in this bracket.
The UCAT website outlines that candidates who achieve a band 2 ‘demonstrate a good, solid level of performance, showing appropriate judgement frequently, with many responses matching model answers’. Therefore, a band 2 or above is generally considered to be a good Situational Judgement score in the UCAT.
The UCAT Situational Judgement Test assesses your ability to respond appropriately to given situations, as well as your values and behaviours linked to these actions. Therefore, gaining an understanding of the behaviours expected of doctors and medical students is a useful starting point for your exam preparations. The General Medical Council’s (GMC’s) Good Medical Practice guidance outlines the values and behaviours expected of a doctor, and therefore is a useful document to familiarise yourself with. Not only will it be helpful for your UCAT Situational Judgement Test but it’ll also be useful when it comes to your medical school interview, so the more familiar you are with it the better, in terms of your medical school application.
As with all areas of the UCAT, completing practice questions and practice tests will help you to prepare effectively for the Situational Judgement Test. This will help you to become familiar with the type of questions you’ll be asked, how to answer and the speed at which you need to answer them. Remember, the Situational Judgement Test is the last section in the UCAT, so you may find that you’re lacking concentration or becoming tired at this point. By incorporating full practice tests into your UCAT revision, rather than simply focusing on individual subtests, you’ll be more used to the demands of the test and build stamina to complete the full UCAT.
You can find more information about practice questions and tests, and where to access our free UCAT practice questions, in the example questions section below.
The following tips will support you to do well in the UCAT Situational Judgement Test:
As mentioned above, the two most valuable tools for preparing for the UCAT Situational Judgement Test are the General Medical Council’s Good Medical Practice guidance and practice tests. The first will help you to become familiar with the values and behaviours expected of doctors, while the second will prepare you for the questions that you’ll be asked and how you should respond; providing effective preparation for this section of the UCAT.
Our UCAT Practice Test blog provides free practice questions for all areas of the UCAT, including the Situational Judgement Test, as well as general information about the exam which you may find useful. We also have an adaptive UCAT question bank, which offers personalised learning, through artificial intelligence powered practice questions and practice tests, which adapt to your strengths and weaknesses. This ensures that you dedicate time to the areas which are likely to have the biggest impact on your UCAT score, making more effective use of your UCAT preparation time.
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